KILLING ME SOFTLY - Teenage Assassin - Chapter 36

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CHAPTER 36: 

GABRIEL’S  POV: 

Nothing compares to being woken up by a punch to the face.  Oh, except for waking up to being punched in the face and finding yourself tied to your bed.  Sooo getting a sleigh bed next time.  Then let’s see her try to tie me to it. 

As pain shoots through my cheek, I come awake to hear her voice, “Wake up, Gabriel.”  Well . . . duh.  Your love tap sort of took care of that, devil-woman.  The room is still dark until she turns on my floor lamp over by the recliner.  So cliché.  Is this the part where I’m supposed to be shaking in my boxers?

“Hello, Beautiful,” I grumble out sleepily.  Then I get a good look at her.  Her outfit is pretty casual compared to what she was wearing earlier.  Blue jeans, white tank top and a dark brown leather jacket.  Her currently light brown hair is pulled back in a ponytail.  But, that’s not what gets my attention, it’s the splattering of crimson on her cheek. 

“Are you hurt?” I ask, tugging at my bindings, which are both neckties that I’ve never worn.  Actually, one of them isn’t even mine . . . 

She looks confused by my question, her eyebrows coming together, “Why would I be hurt?”

Having a feeling where this conversation is going, I say ruefully, “Well either you whisked a pitcher of red Kool-Aid a little too vigorously, or you have blood on your left cheek.”

Wiping at her cheek with her fingers, she pulls her hand back to take a look, “Oh, that.”  With a shrug, she reaches down to my bedroom floor and picks up a random shirt, a white one, using it to wipe off what I’m assuming is blood, “Jackson and I were in the mood to walk through a bad neighborhood earlier tonight.”  Looking disgruntled she says harshly, “He could have told me I had blood on my cheek.  Punk was probably mad cause I won.”

With a thud, she brings her boots up to prop on the footboard of my bed.  Well, at least someone is comfortable.  My arms are starting to ache from being spread out all sacrificial-like.  “How’d you get in?”

One corner of her mouth raises, “I’ve got mad breaking-and-entering skills.”

“Max let you in?”

She laughs, “Yeah, let me borrow one of his ties too.  We had a nice little chat.” She makes a clucking sound, shaking her head, “You really need to get over me, Gabriel.  Move on.”  After a pause, “But I can kinda understand why you haven’t.  Cause I got mad bed skills too.”

That has me tugging at my bindings again, “Practice much lately?”

This gets me a full-on smile, “A lady never tells.”  Yeah, well a gentleman can get really pissed off when she doesn’t. 

I look at my alarm clock and see that it’s past one in the morning.  Ignoring her non-answer for now, I ask, “How did you get away from me so easily earlier today? And give me an answer other than that you have mad getaway skills.”

She pouts, damn I missed her, “Well, it’s true.  But, I guess it won’t hurt to let you know.  After I laid you out on your ass.” She stops to smile, I grunt.  “I ran out of your apartment.”

“And I chased you. I took the stairs down pretty fast, so I don’t understand how I didn’t beat the elevator.”

“Yes, well, you assumed I would go down.  I went up.”  With another thud, her boots hit the wood floor and she stands up.  “Went up to the roof, watched you spin around down on the street looking for me, then took the fire escape down the back of the building.  Sucked doing it in heels.”

“I went to hotels all over Manhattan looking for you,” I tell her slowly. 

“I figured,” is her only response. 

“I love you,” I use a soft, soothing tone.

Three seconds later, she’s standing on the right side of the bed, holding a knife to my throat, “And that misconception is what I’m here to cure.”  Her eyes are saying that she's angry, but what is she so angry about.  I don't think it's about me shooting her, exactly.  I think it's something more.

Deciding that I have no reason to fear the blade, I raise my eyebrows, “Kill or cure?”

She hums out a, “Hmmm,” her face is scrunched up in thought, “Something like that.”

With a flick of wrist, the blade is closed and she moves away from the bed, with her back to me.  “I thought about just getting on a plane tonight, maybe letting Jackson finish the contract and taking a little vacay down south somewhere, like Rio, but I don’t like leaving unfinished business.”  She relaxes back into the recliner, “Personal business included.” 

It never ceases to amaze me that the whole world is Anna’s playground, her domain.  Down south to the average person who lives in the United States is Texas or Georgia.  Down south for someone like Annabelle is Brazil.

“Is that what you’re here to do, finish it?  Finish us?” I ask warily. 

“Yes, but first I want to tell you a little story.”  Her hand waves through the air.  “A love story.”

“Is it about us?”

“No,” she looks at me sharply, as if irritated by the interruption, or maybe the question made her uncomfortable.  “I love you, Annabelle.”

Ignoring me, she begins her story, “This story begins with Jacque Blanc, who rose from being a member of a Paris street gang as a teenage boy, to being the right-hand man to a Paris mob boss by the time he was thirty.  He was quite happy with his criminal accomplishments.  In came Isabelle Lane, CIA agent by way of the FBI, whose job it was to get close to the mob boss’s right hand man, Jacque Blanc, in the hopes of learning information that may be useful to the United States government.”

“They were your parents,” I say more as a observation than a question. 

She doesn’t answer, “Things didn’t turn out so well for the CIA, but they turned out very well for Jacque and Isabelle.”  Then she adds quietly, “For awhile, at least.”  I stay silent while she pauses, then her eyes meet mine again, “Isabelle Lane became Isabelle Blanc and said ‘adios’ to the CIA, Jacque also cut ties with the crime world of Paris.”  I wonder what the small smile means, but don’t want to interrupt her again,

“Isabelle had an old CIA contact, Simon, and through him they were connected with a network of assassins.  And so a new career began for both of them.  Some may say it was irresponsible, but over the following years, the couple decided to start a family.  Jackson was born, then Annabelle two years later.  Their good friend, Simon, was named godfather to both of them.  With the help of a very dedicated and loyal Syrian nanny named Adala, the proud parents were able to continue with their contract work.  Never did they take a job where they killed an innocent.  Saving lives by taking lives was their personal motto.”

“So, how’d they die?” I ask, anxious for the conclusion to the story. 

Looking completely serious, she says, “Love killed them.”

I hold back a scoffing sound.  Which is thankful, because I don’t think Anna would appreciate it.

She gives me a stern look, “I can tell you don’t believe me, but it’s true.  After the children came along, they only took a few jobs a year.  They were working on a job in Lisbon, taking out the head of an organization shipping out arms illegally to rebels of some African country.  My mom,” as her voice cracks, I realize that Anna and I have more in common than I’d thought.  Even if she doesn’t remember her, she lost a mother too. 

She clears her throat, “My mom was taken hostage when the organization was tipped off.  Simon still doesn’t know who it was, maybe someone in the CIA with a grudge against a rogue agent, maybe someone from my dad's sordid past.  They had so many enemies, we’ll probably never know.”  From the look on her face, I can tell that Annabelle would really like to know.

“Even knowing it was probably suicide to go in after her, my dad did it anyways.  Simon was in South America at the time and begged my dad over the phone to wait until he could get to Portugal and help him.  My dad was too afraid of what waiting would mean to my mom.  Jackson was four, and he says he remembers my dad kissing us both goodbye, saying 'Je t'aime', and leaving us with Adala at a hotel.”

“Neither one came back by the time Simon arrived at the hotel in Lisbon, he knew what that meant, that they were most likely dead.  Later on, it was confirmed when their bodies were found.  Adala told me when I was a little older that Simon cried that night.  Hard for me to believe, since I've never seen him do that myself, or show much of any emotion.  He had become very close to them over the years she said, like a brother, an uncle to us.  Of course, being Simon, he also raged about my father not waiting for him.  I guess he figured at least that way, one of them would have lived.  He blamed Jacque for getting himself killed.”

She isn’t looking at me anymore, but out the large windows looking out at the city lights.  I clear my throat, feeling a knot in it from the sad story, “Do you blame him?”

Anna looks startled out of her thoughts and swings her head back towards me, “I don’t blame him, Gabriel.”

Not knowing if I want to know the answer, I ask anyways, “Would you do the same for me?”

Laughing bitterly, her expression is hard, “At one time, yes.” 

Ouch.  I mentally shake off my hurt, wanting to know more, “Then what happened?”

There’s a long moment of silence, almost as if she’s debating whether or not to continue, “Afraid that my parents’ enemies had found out about me and Jackson, Simon secreted us out of Lisbon the same night he arrived.  He was afraid that any vendettas against our parents’ would encompass us, with their deaths.  Kept Adala on as our nanny for about seven more years, then retired her somewhere tropical.  She never really approved of his parenting methods.  Jackson and I still visit her from time to time.”

“I don’t approve either,” I say sarcastically. 

“Yeah, well, it kept us alive," she snaps testily.  "He taught us how to take care of ourselves in the instance that any of my parents’ old enemies decided we should be put down.  I mean, even though were toddlers at the time, who knows what kind of information my parents’ hid with us?  Stuff that the CIA, United States government, and multiple other governments and criminal organizations wouldn’t want to get out.  We were our parents’ legacy, Jackson and me.”

“Did they hide information with you guys?”  I ask, honestly curious. 

“Confidential.”

“Why did you tell me all this?”  I know there has to be a point, and I have a few theories as to why.

She stands up again, spanning both hands over the footboard, leaning into it, “You want the moral of the story, Gabriel?  Well, here you go, when someone like me loves, it gets them killed.  In my case, it was the person I loved that killed me, at least until the defibrillators restarted my heart.  Simon always said that romantic love was a weakness, to ignore it at all costs.”  She strolls around the bed, “Simon was disappointed to learn that he hadn’t trained the ability out of me.”  Trailing a finger along my jaw, she leans her face close, “You succeeded where he failed.”

“I don’t believe you,” I spit out in frustration, really hating that I’m not free.  “Untie me, Annabelle.”

“Not. Yet.”

“Is there more?” I angrily half-yell. 

Very quietly, in a contemplative tone, “Yes, now I’m going to train it out of you.”  With that, she pulls a small object out of her coat pocket and sets it on my bare stomach. 

“What’s that?”

“Tape recorder,” she says matter-of-factly, then leans down to whisper in my ear, “Remember when I blew your dad’s brains out?  Don’t you hate me for it?  And then your poor, pathetic mother went and killed herself because of it.  So sad.  Guess both of us have parents with sad love stories.  Don’t you want to hurt me, Gabriel?  I did kill your parents, after all.  Isn’t that why you shot me?”

“I didn’t mean it, I was out of my mind with grief,” I say through clenched teeth.  Then I turn my head to try and kiss her.

She makes a tsking sound twice, “Is that what you tell yourself?  You know what I’ve told myself, Gabriel?  Well, I’ll tell you,” her voice turns pleasant, “I’ve told myself everyday since I’ve been old enough to understand, that if I knew who had sold out my parents to those criminals in Lisbon, I would blow their brains out.  Just like I blew your dad’s brains out.  Just like you tried to blow mine out.”

I’m trembling with emotions, frustration, hurt, panic, “I don’t want you dead, Annabelle.”

“I think you do,” she says in a sing-song voice. 

“I just want to love you, Annabelle.  And for you to admit that you love me back.” I say without hesitation. 

She rears back as if struck, and with her back to the light, I can’t see her face clearly, but I think I see a glistening of tears in her eyes, angrily she says, “I don’t believe you.  I think you’re in denial.  I think you hate me and deep down, you always will." 

“And I think you are in denial.”  Smugness is only going to piss her off, but I want her rattled.  “Otherwise, you wouldn’t have felt the need to tie me up.”

She stalks over to the window, staring out, I can hear her ragged breathing.  When she turns back around, she’s collected herself, masked her emotions, “I have a present for you, Gabriel.”  Walking over, she puts her finger on the tape recorder, holding it there, “You can keep this copy, Gabriel.  I have one of my own.  And in case you’re wondering, I’m glad I killed your dad.  I’m a freaking hero because of it.”   Tilting her head to the side, she adds, “Do you suppose you might be just like him someday?”  She presses down her index finger and walks out my bedroom door, calling out over her shoulder, “Max will cut you loose!”

It almost seems that, since I first met Annabelle almost three years ago, my life has been a series of bad memories, unhappy revelations and experiences.  Ranking at the top is when I thought Anna was dead, that I had killed her.  After that, it’d probably be the phone call telling me my mom had committed suicide.  Even though we weren’t close, my dad’s death ranks up there too.  Having to listen to this tape definitely makes the top ten list of worst memories. 

Unmistakably my father’s voice telling of his bad deeds and unmistakably Anna’s voice asking him the questions, prompting him.  Obviously my dad was trying to buy time by going along with her demands, probably hoping that his outside security men would come.  Those bodyguards that make so much sense now.  Instead, I was the one who came.  To stand by and watch as Anna executed him for his crimes. 

When the tape has run out, confessions over, I think back to what happened next. I walked in on the scene in disbelief, Anna seemed confused, as if debating whether or not to follow through with her intent.  The moment she killed him, my heart stopped, for more than one reason.  I remember the red blood, kneeling over his body, then everything going black as she knocked me out.  Waking up in the blood, my stunned state-of-mind, while going through the motions afterwards. 

Finding out that my dad was an even worst person than Anna had hinted at is painful.  Even if he was a monster, it still hurts because I loved him.  Knowing that my mom’s death was one-hundred percent his fault just leaves me angry at him.  Love may be a weakness for some people, like my mom.  But I think it makes some people stronger.  And Anna and me, we’re stronger together. 

Hero?  Now I have to admit so.  Killer?  Definitely.  The woman I love?  Always. 

When Max finally comes into my room along while later, flipping the switch on the overhead lights, I squeeze my eyes shut.  He uses a pair of scissors off my desk to cut through the neckties. 

He seems anxious. 

“I followed her, Gabriel.  I don’t think she noticed me, I think she was crying.  She’s staying at The New Yorker.”

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